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What is Next for Amendment 64?

Weed is legal, but what exactly does that mean for you and me as we move forward?

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More Coloradoans used their vote in November’s election to legalize marijuana than were cast to reelect the President of the United States.  Amendment 64 received 1,291,771 votes in favor and President Obama received 1,238,490 votes from Colorado citizens – according to Politico.com.
 

In the language of Amendment 64:

In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenues for public purposes, and individual freedom, the people of the state of Colorado find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons twenty-one years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.

What is unique about this bill is the extent to which it transcends political party lines, and brings together constituencies for practical purposes, which are many times on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to political positions.  Fiscal progressives like the idea of legalizing marijuana if it will raise revenue in the state to put toward public schools and community projects. Libertarians support legalization of marijuana on the grounds that it promotes individual liberty.  However, what likely pushed support beyond the tipping point of passage is that legalizing marijuana is compatible with fiscal conservatism by means of millions of projected dollars in savings for the criminal justice system by allowing resources to be allocated away from pursuing and punishing marijuana users and toward more productive endeavors, like minimizing violent crimes.

This analysis is supported by a budgetary study done by the Colorado Center on Law & Policy that concluded Amendment 64 “could generate as much as a total of $60 million in savings and revenue” as well as create several hundred new jobs, mostly in the construction sector.  Broken down new revenue and savings will come from the following areas:

    • $12 million dollars of annual savings in criminal justice costs
    • $24 million in excise tax revenue
    • $8.7 million in state sales tax revenue
    • $14.5 million in local tax revenue

So, weed is legal, but what exactly does that mean for you and me as we move forward?

Under the new law the following activities will be lawful under the Colorado Constitution, after the bill takes full effect, for individuals twenty-one years or older: 

  • a. Possessing, using, and displaying, purchasing, or transporting marijuana accessories or one ounce or less of marijuana.
  • b. Possessing, growing, processing, or transporting no more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown, provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publically, and is not made available for sale.
  • c. Transfers of one ounce or less of marijuana without remuneration [without payment] to a person who is twenty-one years of age or older. 
  • d. Consumption of marijuana, provided that nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly or publically in a manner that endangers others.
  • e. Assisting another person who is twenty-one years of age or older in any of the acts described in paragraphs a-d of this subsection.

And in regard to what is next for local law enforcement in light of the passage of Amendment 64, Pueblo Chief of Police Luis Velez tells PULP that for the moment there will be no change in the policy of handling marijuana infractions in Pueblo and that the “Chiefs [of police in Colorado] Association is still awaiting direction from the Attorney General to be handed down.”  And although the final policies are not due to be in place until well into next year, Chief Velez further explained that some policies might begin to be enacted as early as this December or January of 2013.

One of the first regulations likely to be introduced, according to Chief Velez, will be one that sets a standard for measuring the legal limit of THC that can be in a driver’s system and policies for police officers who will have to handle a breadth of marijuana possession situations.  For example, an Arizonan traveling through Colorado to Kansas in possession of marijuana might be charged federally, while a resident of Conejos County traveling to Summit County, with a legal amount of marijuana might not be penalized.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers recently stated, “Despite my strongly-held belief that the legalization of marijuana on a state level is a very bad public policy, voters can be assured that the Attorney General’s Office will move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution.”

Below are highlights from regulations that must be in place by July 13, 2013 under Amendment 64: 

  • Qualifications for licensure that are directly and demonstrably related to the operation of a marijuana establishment.
  • Security requirements for marijuana establishments.
  • Requirements to prevent the sale or diversion of marijuana and marijuana products to persons under the age of twenty-one.
  • Labeling requirements for marijuana and marijuana products sold or distributed by a marijuana establishment.
  • Health and safety regulations and standards for the manufacture of marijuana and the cultivation of marijuana.
  • Restrictions on the advertising and display of marijuana and marijuana products. 
  • Civil penalties for the failure to comply with regulations made pursuant to this section.

In contrast to the similar law passed in Washington State, Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Colorado’s strategy for regulating cannabis is left vague and focuses more on what regulations and restrictions cannot be put in place than outlining what regulations will be implemented for individuals and organizations.  

Also of significance:

In order to ensure that individual privacy is protected, individuals shall not be required to provide a retail marijuana store with personal information other than government-issued identification to determine the consumer’s age, and a retail marijuana store shall not be required to acquire and record personal information about consumers other than information typically in a financial transaction conducted at a retail liquor store.

There shall be enacted an excise tax to be levied upon marijuana sold or otherwise transferred by a marijuana cultivation facility to a marijuana product manufacturing facility or to a retail marijuana store at a rate not to exceed fifteen percent prior to January 1, 2017 and at a rate to be determined by the general assembly thereafter, and shall direct the department to establish procedures for the collection of all taxes levied.  Provided, the first forty million dollars in revenue raised annually from any such excise tax shall be credited to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, or any fund dedicated to a similar purpose.  Provided further, no such excise tax shall be levied upon marijuana intended for sale at medical marijuana centers.

While Amendment 64 sets a new precedent for the expansion of civil liberties, the following is a list of things you still cannot do in Colorado:

Drive under the influence of marijuana or while impaired by marijuana.

Transfer marijuana with or without remuneration to a person under the age of twenty-one or to allow a person under the age of twenty-one to purchase, possess, use, transport, grow, or consume marijuana.

[Nothing in the bill prohibits] Persons, employers, schools, hospitals, detention facilities, corporations or any other entity who occupies, owns or controls a property from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana on or in that property.

Finally, medical marijuana will be unaffected and under the language of the bill:

This amendment will not limit any privileges or rights of a medical marijuana patient, primary caregiver, or licensed entity as provided in section 14 of this article and the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code.

So what becomes clear is that the democratic will of state has spoken clearly in favor of Marijuana; and Colorado will now begin the long road of putting in place just regulations of cannabis and policies to protect the liberty of consumers.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

Colorado

Some parents worry new drug approval could shift States’ attitudes on medicinal cannabis

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Some American parents who for years have used cannabis to treat severe forms of epilepsy in their children are feeling more cautious than celebratory as U.S. regulators near a decision on whether to approve the first drug derived from the marijuana plant.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue a decision by the end of the month on the drug Epidiolex, made by GW Pharmaceuticals. It’s a purified form of cannabidiol — a component of cannabis that doesn’t get users high — to treat Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes in kids. Both forms of epilepsy are rare.

Cannabidiol’s effect on a variety of health conditions is frequently touted, but there is still little evidence to back up advocates’ personal experiences. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has long categorized cannabis as a Schedule I drug, a category with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” That strictly limits research on potential medical uses for cannabis or the chemicals in it, including cannabidiol, or CBD.

But for years, parents desperate to find anything to help their children have turned to the marijuana-based products made legal by a growing number of states.

Meagan Patrick is among the parents using CBD to treat symptoms in their children. She moved from Maine to Colorado in 2014 so she could legally get CBD for her now-5-year-old daughter, Addelyn, who was born with a brain malformation that causes seizures.

“My child was dying, and we needed to do something,” Patrick said.

As for the potential approval of a pharmaceutical based on CBD, she said fear is her first reaction.

“I want to make sure that her right to continue using what works for her is protected, first and foremost. That’s my job as her mom,” Patrick said.

Advocates like Patrick became particularly concerned when GW Pharmaceuticals’ U.S. commercial business, Greenwich Biosciences, began quietly lobbying to change states’ legal definition of marijuana, beginning in 2017 with proposals in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Some worried the company’s attempt to ensure its product could be legally prescribed and sold by pharmacies would have a side effect: curtailing medical marijuana programs already operating in more than two dozen states.

The proposals generally sought to remove CBD from states’ legal definition of marijuana, allowing it to be prescribed by doctors and supplied by pharmacies. But the change only applies to products that have FDA approval.

Neither Nebraska nor South Dakota allows medical use of marijuana, and activists accused the company of trying to shut down future access to products containing cannabidiol but lacking FDA approval.

Britain-based GW Pharmaceuticals never intended for the changes to affect other marijuana products, but they are necessary to allow Epidiolex to be sold in pharmacies if approved, spokesman Stephen Schultz said.

He would not discuss other places where the company will seek changes to state law. The Associated Press confirmed that lobbyists representing Greenwich Biosciences backed legislation in California and Colorado this year.

“As a company, we understand there’s a significant business building up,” Schultz said. “All we want to do is make sure our product is accessible.”

Industry lobbyists in those states said they take company officials at their word, but they still insisted on protective language ensuring that recreational or medical marijuana, cannabidiol, hemp and other products derived from cannabis plants won’t be affected by the changes sought by GW Pharmaceuticals.

Patrick Goggin, an attorney who focuses on industrial hemp issues in California, said the company would run into trouble if it tried to “lock up access” to marijuana-derived products beyond FDA-approved drugs.

“People need to have options and choices,” he said. “That’s the battle here.”

Legal experts say the changes are logical. Some states’ laws specifically prohibit any product derived from the marijuana plant from being sold in pharmacies. The FDA has approved synthetic versions of another cannabis ingredient for medical purposes but has never approved marijuana or hemp for any medical use.

A panel of FDA advisers in April unanimously recommended the agency approve Epidiolex for the treatment of severe seizures in children with epilepsy, conditions that are otherwise difficult to treat. It’s not clear why CBD reduces seizures in some patients, but the panel based its recommendation on three studies showing significant reduction in children with two forms of epilepsy.

Denver-based attorney Christian Sederberg, who worked on the GW Pharmaceuticals-backed legislation in Colorado on behalf of the marijuana industry, said all forms of marijuana can exist together.

“The future of the industry is showing itself here,” Sederberg said. “There’s going to be the pharmaceutical lane, the nutraceutical (food-as-medicine) lane, the adult-use lane. This shows how that’s all coming together.”

Alex and Jenny Inman said they won’t switch to Epidiolex if it becomes available, though their son Lukas has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Alex, an information technology professional, and Jenny, a preschool teacher, said it took some at-home experimentation to find the right combination of doctor-prescribed medication, CBD and THC — the component that gives marijuana users a high — that seemed to help Lukas with his seizures.

“What makes me a little bit nervous about this is that there’s sort of a psyche amongst patients that, ‘Here’s this pill, and this pill will solve things,’ right? It works differently for different people,” Alex Inman said.

The Inmans moved from Maryland to Colorado in 2015 after doctors recommended a second brain surgery for Lukas’ seizures. The couple and other parents and advocates for CBD said children respond differently to a variety of strains.

The Realm of Caring Foundation, an organization co-founded by Paige Figi, whose daughter Charlotte’s name is attached to the CBD oil Charlotte’s Web, said it maintains a registry of about 46,000 people worldwide who use CBD.

For Heather Jackson, who said her son Zaki, now 15, benefited from CBD and who co-founded the foundation, Epidiolex’s approval means insurers will begin paying for treatment with a cannabis-derived product.

“That might be a nice option for some families who, you know, really want to receive a prescription who are going to only listen to the person in the white coat,” Jackson said.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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News

Colorado to toughen car pollution rules

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Colorado’s governor on Tuesday ordered his state to adopt vehicle pollution rules enforced in California, joining other states in resisting the Trump administration’s plans to ease emission standards.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper told state regulators to begin writing rules that incorporate California’s low-emission standards with a goal of putting them in place by the end of the year.

Hickenlooper said the strict standards are important to Colorado, citing climate change and noting the state’s elevation makes pollution worse.

“Our communities, farms and wilderness areas are susceptible to air pollution and a changing climate,” his order said. “It’s critical for Coloradans’ health and Colorado’s future that we meet these challenges head-on.”

Hickenlooper’s order came about three months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would not implement stricter emissions rules adopted by the Obama administration. Those rules would have started with the 2022 model year.

California has a waiver under federal Clean Air Act allowing it to impose tougher standards than the U.S. rules. Currently, California’s standards are the same as the federal standards. But if the Trump administration foregoes the stricter Obama-era rules, California could still impose them or others.

The law allows other states to apply California’s standards. Colorado would be the 13th state, excluding California, to do so, said Luke Tonachel, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s clean vehicles project. The District of Columbia has also adopted the rules.

The states that currently apply California’s rules are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

“Colorado is recognizing along with other states that the federal rollback is both unjustified and harmful, so the governor is joining others in protecting his state’s citizens,” Tonachel said.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association said California standards might not be a good fit for Colorado because a higher percentage of Coloradans buys pickups, SUVS, vans and all-wheel-drive vehicles, which burn more gas.

“We’re disappointed that the state of Colorado, the governor, or regulatory board or anybody else would cede air quality control regulation to an out-of-state, unelected board in Sacramento (California),” said Tim Jackson, president of the association.

The Obama rules would have required the nationwide fleet of new vehicles to get 36 miles per gallon (15 kilometers per liter) in real-world driving by 2025. That’s about 10 mpg (4 kilometers per liter) over the existing standard.

The EPA announced in April it would scrap the Obama-era rules, questioning whether they were technically feasible and citing concerns about how much they would add to the cost of vehicles. The EPA said it would come up with different rules.

California and 16 other states sued the Trump administration over the plan to drop the tougher rules. All the states that joined the lawsuit have Democratic attorneys general. Colorado, which has a Republican attorney general, did not join.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

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Mass uncertainty – White House unclear how it plans to reunite separated children

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Trump administration officials say they have no clear plan yet on how to reunite the thousands of children separated from their families at the border since the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy in which anyone caught entering the U.S. illegally is criminally prosecuted.

“This policy is relatively new,” said Steven Wagner, an acting assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services “We’re still working through the experience of reunifying kids with their parents after adjudication.”

Federal officials say there are some methods parents can use to try to find their children: hotlines to call and an email address for those seeking information. But advocates say it’s not that simple.

In a courtroom near the Rio Grande, lawyer Efren Olivares and his team with the Texas Civil Rights Project frantically scribble down children’s names, birthdates and other details from handcuffed men and women waiting for court to begin. There are sometimes 80 of them in the same hearing.

The Texas Civil Rights Project works to document the separations in the hopes of helping them reunite with the children.

They have one hour to collect as much information as they can before the hearing begins. The immigrants plead guilty to illegally entering the U.S., and they are typically sent either to jail or directly to an immigration detention center. At this point, lawyers with the civil rights group often lose access to the detainees.

“If we don’t get that information, then there’s no way of knowing that child was separated,” Olivares said. “No one else but the government will know that the separation happened if we don’t document it there.”

Olivares has documented more than 300 cases of adults who have been separated from a child. Most are parents, but some are older siblings, aunts, uncles or grandparents. Some are illiterate and don’t know how to spell the children’s names.

More than 2,000 minors have been separated from their families since early May. The children are put into the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the aim of keeping them as close to their parents as possible and reuniting the family after the case goes through the courts, said Wagner.

But it’s not clear that’s working.

According to Olivares, the agency is generally “very willing to help,” often helping to find a child even if there’s a misspelling in the group’s records. But if a child has been transferred out of a government shelter — including if the child has been deported — agency representatives won’t give any information.

“Sometimes the parent gives us contact information for a relative,” Olivares said. “If they have the phone number right and the phone number is working … we call that number and sometimes we’re able to locate that relative and ask them what they know.”

In May, the Department of Justice adopted the zero-tolerance policy in which anyone caught entering the U.S. illegally is criminally prosecuted. Children can’t be jailed with their parents. Instead, after the adult is charged, children are held briefly by Homeland Security officials before being transferred to Health and Human Services, which operates more than 100 shelters for minors in 17 states.

The department has set up new facilities to manage the influx of children, and Wagner said they were prepared to expand as more children come into custody.

The children are classified as unaccompanied minors, a legal term generally used for children who cross the border alone and have a possible sponsor in the U.S. willing to care for them. Most of the more than 10,000 children in shelters under HHS care came to the U.S. alone and are waiting to be placed with family members living in the U.S.

But these children are different — they arrived with their families.

“They should just give the kids back to their parents. This isn’t difficult,” said Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gelernt represents a Brazilian asylum seeker in a closely watched lawsuit that seeks a nationwide halt to family separation. The woman, identified as Mrs. C in court documents, was split from her son for nearly a year after entering the country illegally in August near Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

On Tuesday, Olivares’ team had seven people left to interview with five minutes left. They took down just the names, dates of birth, and countries of origin of the children.

“One woman (said), ‘What about me, what about me?'” Olivares said a few hours later. “She wanted to give us information because she realized what we were trying to do.”

___

Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat contributed to this report.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

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